Teach Us to Pray

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“Lord, teach us to pray,…” (Luke 11:1)

There can be no doubt that prayer is important in the true believer’s life. In fact, Martin Luther King, Jr. is supposed to have said, “To be a Christian without prayer is no more possible than to be alive without breathing.”

But many of us would echo the desire expressed in the verse quoted above. We know we ought to pray, we know we need to pray, but we just don’t know how. Further, as J.I. Packer explains, “If you are uncertain whether God exists, or whether he is personal, or good, or in control of things, or concerned about ordinary folk like you and me, you are bound to conclude that praying is pretty pointless, not to say trivial, and then you won’t do it.”[1]

But we need to remember that Jesus did not say “If you pray,” He said, “When you pray.” So, as He has done in so many different situations, Jesus offered to His disciples, and to us, a model to follow when we pray. It is as if He was saying to them, “Here. Try it this way.”[2]

But there are some important things to keep in mind as we pray. Warren Wiersbe says,

This prayer is at the heart of the Sermon on the Mount and is preceded by two warnings from our Savior: don’t use your prayers to show off how religious you are (6:5-6), and don’t just “babble” a lot of meaningless words (6:7-8). Get to the point! It’s the strength of our faith and not the length of our prayers that pleases him.[3]

Commentators point out that The Lord’s Prayer as recorded in Matthew has six (or some say seven) petitions, three of which are addressed toward God, and the remaining three or four are requests related to “daily needs.” There’s another shorter version of the prayer found in Luke 11. One commentator pointed out that as this was a “model” prayer, Jesus likely repeated it on several occasions, perhaps modifying it for different audiences.

It’s also important to note that plural pronouns are used throughout. This “indicate(s) that the Lord’s Prayer is a family prayer. We may pray in solitude, but we never really pray alone, for as the people of God we belong to each other and we affect each other.”[4]

Finally, bear in mind what an incredible privilege we have to approach our Heavenly Father in prayer. Warren Wiersbe cautions,

The very privilege of prayer is ours at a great price. Jesus Christ had to suffer and die on the cross to make it possible for us to approach the throne of grace to worship and to pray (Heb. 10:19-24)…. To neglect prayer is to cheapen everything Jesus accomplished for us at Calvary and is doing for us now in glory.[5]

Keep that last thought in mind as you pray, as Jesus taught you to pray,

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come; thy will be done; on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation; but deliver us from evil. For thine is the kingdom, the power and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.

[1] J.I. Packer, Growing in Christ (Crossway Books, 1994), p. 155.

[2] Wesley Hill, The Lord’s Prayer: A Guide to Praying to Our Father (Lexham Press, 2019), p. 10.

[3] Warren W. Wiersbe, On Earth as It Is in Heaven (Baker Books, 2010), p. 16.

[4] Ibid., p. 17.

[5] Ibid., p. 13.

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